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Santa Ana National Refuge is a national preserve that borders the Rio Grande River, and it is inhabited by a number of different animals and plants. The refuge was originally land owned by a Mexican-American War veteran, Cristobal Leal, and his family. It has since been bought by the government in an attempt to protect the wildlife of the Rio Grande Valley. It includes the main office located at the entrance of the Refuge, and deep within the preserve is cemetery containing the family that originally owned the land.


  • The entrance to the Cementerio Viejo, the cemetery contains the bodies of the family, friends, and workers of Cristobal Leal, Mexican-American War veteran and former medic.

Santa Ana National Refuge is a nature preserve near the Rio Grande River, where subtropical, Gulf Coast, Great Plains, and Chihuahuan desert meet, located in the city of Alamo, Texas. The refuge park is noted to have a number of mammals, birds, insects, and plants that inhabit the land. It stretches for 2,088 acres of land that is home to over 400 species of birds, nearly half the population of butterflies in North America, as well many other species1. The preserve was founded in 1943 in an attempt to protect migratory birds2.

The Refuge includes a cemetery, dating back to the Mexican-American War. The Old Cemetery is located 1 ¼ mile South of the visitor center, where thousands of people every year visit to learn the history of the Rio Grande Valley. Notable locals buried at the Old Cemetery include Cristobal Leal (1833-1876), a Mexican-American War veteran and surgeon. Leal was buried in an above-ground crypt along with his wife (and first cousin), Victoria Balli-Leal3. Benigno Leal, Cristobal’s family member, was killed after he murdered a local, and was also buried at the Old Cemetery4. Cristobal Leal was awarded a grant for the land in 1834 by Mexico, which he turned into a ranch called Rancho del Adentro (“Inside Ranch”)5. The handmade bricks that were used to construct the house have since deteriorated, therefore, there are no remains of the ranch house6. There are also 30 unmarked graves in the Old Cemetery behind the crypt, adorned only with rotting wood crosses. The unmarked graves were likely workers or residents of the family ranch7.

Santa Ana provides access to a variety of unusual and local species. It has a number of cacti species, including the Texas ebony, guayacan, and many more. There is a mix of tropical plants, cacti, trees, and Spanish moss8. Many trails have been set aside for the purpose of research and education. The small reservation has a variety of habitats that are attractions for environmental research at the local University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley. The refuge is home to ocelots and jaguarundis, two type of small wild cats, who have been placed there in hopes that their numbers will increase.

The refuge is a popular Rio Grande Valley destination because of its numerous trails that allow visitors to disconnect from the world and enjoy the natural attractions the community has to offer. In recent years, the Santa Ana National Refuge has been in the spotlight as it has been considered as a location for the Border Wall because it borders the United States and Mexico. The demographics of the Rio Grande Valley community consists of over ninety percent Hispanic, and it has led to demonstrations being held at the refuge9. The staff is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the natural attractions available, and their preservation.


1. Walker. "SANTA ANA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE." Texas State Parks. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.stateparks.com/santa_ana_national_wildlife_refuge_in_texas.html.

2. Walker. "SANTA ANA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE." Texas State Parks. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.stateparks.com/santa_ana_national_wildlife_refuge_in_texas.html.

3. 
Isbell, Francis. "SANTA ANA WILDLIFE REFUGE CEMETERY." Hidalgo Co. - Cemeteries of Texas. 2005. Accessed November 17, 2018. http://www.cemeteries-of-tx.com/Etx/Hidalgo/Cemetery/santaana.htm.

4. Isbell, Francis. "SANTA ANA WILDLIFE REFUGE CEMETERY." Hidalgo Co. - Cemeteries of Texas. 2005. Accessed November 17, 2018. http://www.cemeteries-of-tx.com/Etx/Hidalgo/Cemetery/santaana.htm.

5. Isbell, Francis. "SANTA ANA WILDLIFE REFUGE CEMETERY." Hidalgo Co. - Cemeteries of Texas. 2005. Accessed November 17, 2018. http://www.cemeteries-of-tx.com/Etx/Hidalgo/Cemetery/santaana.htm.

6. MacWhorter, William. "SANTA ANA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE." The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). June 15, 2010. Accessed December 02, 2018. https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/gks05.

7. Isbell, Francis. "SANTA ANA WILDLIFE REFUGE CEMETERY." Hidalgo Co. - Cemeteries of Texas. 2005. Accessed November 17, 2018. http://www.cemeteries-of-tx.com/Etx/Hidalgo/Cemetery/santaana.htm.

8. Walker. "SANTA ANA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE." Texas State Parks. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.stateparks.com/santa_ana_national_wildlife_refuge_in_texas.html.

9. "Save the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge." Sierra Club. January 22, 2018. Accessed November 17, 2018. 
https://www.sierraclub.org/change/2018/01/save-santa-ana-wildlife-refuge.



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